Saturday, March 9, 2013

‘Public / India’: a global art initiative

‘Public / India’, the first episode of a long-term program of ZegnArt, seeks the annual activation, in an emerging, exciting country, of a deft dual path: the onsite construction of a public art work commissioned from a practitioner in mid-career albeit of international profile chosen from within the host country and done in close collaboration with a globally renowned local institution; the financing of a well-thought residency program offered to a young and talented artist from the host nation invited to do research in Italy.

ZegnArt will serve as a dynamic platform to collate the group’s rich heritage and the throbbing culture of each host nation. And significantly, its debut takes place in India. As part of it, Reena Kallat’s new work of art has just been unveiled on the fascinating façade of Mumbai’s historic Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum courtesy Ermenegildo Zegna, Italian premier luxury fashion house, which has launched a major worldwide initiative to promote art.

A press release elaborates, “The art installation, produced entirely by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group and slated to be donated to the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, will remain on exhibit for a period of six weeks on the main facade of the museum. This particular location will make it accessible not only to museum visitors but to anyone passing along the road, which is well-traveled. The presentation will be accompanied by a schedule of educational workshops and studios developed by the artist for the Museum.” The work, funded by the group, is going to be donated to the museum.

Known to be deeply influenced by the never-ending cycle of life and nature, as well as the extremely fragile nature of the human condition, Reena Kallat’s wide range of painterly interests encapsulates politics, femininity, and subtle evolutions in the human condition. Her preoccupation with the plight of the socially marginalized is invariably evident in her works likes ‘Penumbra Passage’ (Canine Cases) showcased at a major show of contemporary Indian art at Saatchi Gallery in 2010.

Like a dated museum piece, the work seemed to carry a provocative, albeit subtle social-political undertone. Hung above display vitrines, these were portraits of ordinary people set in ornamental frames. The stained color, which formed by their mouth resembles, the shape of the PoK (Pakistan controlled part of Kashmir), referencing disputed territory and constant conflict.

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